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Flu Pandemics: How They Work

UPDATE: First US death, 2 year old Mexican child living in Texas - Since the late nineteenth century when adequate recordsbegan to be kept, there have been four major flu pandemics,in 1889, 1918, 1957 and 1968. Pandemics come in waves, andthe 1918 event showed a typical pattern. The flu spread frombirds to humans, then to pigs, then back to humans. Itappeared in March of 1918 as a mild disease, spreadingslowly until September, when it re-emerged as the mostvirulent flu in modern times. It killed 675,000 Americansand as many as a 100 million people worldwide. These hugenumbers, however, conceal an important fact: only 2 percentof everyone who was infected died. This is because thefirst, mild wave conferred some immunity to many people whowere exposed and remained asymptomatic.

The 1889 pandemic exhibited a similar wave pattern, and itappears that, after an initially lethal outbreak in Mexico,the same thing is happening this time. However, this time itis also true that a vaccine should be ready in about sixmonths, which is approximately when the second wave willdevelop, if there is one.

As flu viruses spread, they also grow milder, which is whatis happening right now. Then, as more people are infected,the chances of a mutation increase. The newly mutated virusappears as the second, more serious wave. Often, there isalso a third wave, but generally milder than the second.After that, the virus is no longer able to sustain itselfbecause too many people have developed immunity, and itfades away.

The current virus is unusual in that it contains elements ofhuman, swine and avian flu strains. Its relative complexitymeans that it has more potential to mutate quickly, which isone reason that world health authorities have acted soaggressively to warn the public about it.

To keep up with cases, use this-110.390625&spn=15.738151,25.488281&z=5);,map.

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